Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Album Review: THUNDER - Rip It Up

Thunder - Rip It Up

1. No One Gets Out Alive
2. Rip It Up
3. She Likes Cocaine
4. Right From The Start
5. Shakedown
6. Heartbreak Hurricane
7. In Another Life
8. The Chosen One
9. The Enemy Inside
10. Tumbling Down
11. There's Always A Loser

I first saw Thunder back in 1992 at Castle Donington's Monsters of Rock festival. It was my first ever gig, so I will always have a soft spot for the six amazing bands that played that day. Thunder were particularly good. They were young, looked cool as fuck, and had two albums worth of huge anthemic rock songs under their belt. They were really popular back then too. I loved their third album Behind Closed doors and remember all the grief they got from both the press and a portion of their fan base for "going grunge". Of course this was utter nonsense. Admittedly, the opening track Moth To The Flame had a heavy riff with a grunge feel, and there was a slight contemporary vibe with their production. Other than that it was business as usual.  Then came their fourth album The Thrill Of It All. For the first time Thunder had released an album I really didn't like. The memory of that song Welcome To The Party about this awesome new politician called Tony Blair makes my skin crawl just thinking about it. And with that, my love for Thunder was over.

With the recent release of this, their eleventh studio album, I decided to reconnect with Thunder. To be fair, they really haven't changed that much. Their blues influence is more prevalent than on the early albums, and overall the new album is not as heavy (not that they were particularly heavy to begin with). They seem to be much more at home with melodic ballads and The Blues than they do with straight forward Hard Rock, as some of the 'rocking' tracks on here don't do much for me. They're very pedestrian and lack the youthful energy of similar material found on their early albums. The title track Rip It Up and first single No One Gets Out Alive are guilty of this.

However, it's not all bad news. Heartbreak Hurricane is Thunder at their best, with its powerful blend of Rock and Blues and Danny Bowes soulful voice bringing a wonderful depth to the track. In Another Life is a really strong Blues based ballad. Shakedown is an exception to the Hard Rock rule here. It's a catchy track with a nice heavy riff in the chorus that weaves with and complements the swaggering vocals.

Rip It Up has some great moments, and some that aren't in the same league as their awesome first three albums. Having said that, there's more to like here than not to, and it's inspired me to check out the six studio albums I missed out on the first time round.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Album Review: KROKUS - Big Rocks

1. N.I.B. (Black Sabbath)
2. Tie Your Mother Down (Queen)
3. My Generation (The Who)
4. Wild Thing (The Troggs)
5. The House Of The Rising Sun (The Animals)
6. Rockin' In The Free World (Neil Young)
7. Gimme Some Lovin' (The Spencer Davis Group)
8. Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin)
9. Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran)
10. Born To Be Wild (Steppenwolf)
11. Quinn The Eskimo (Bob Dylan)
12. Jumpin' Jack Flash (The Rolling Stones)
13. Back Seat Rock 'N Roll (Krokus)

The veteran Swiss rockers are back with a covers album. Unfortunately, I can't see Big Rocks winning them any new fans. I get the impression that this record was made more for themselves than their audience, and they sound like they had a lot of fun making it.

My main issue with Big Rocks is the choice of songs. I'm sure these are all personal favourites of the band and each has some deep significant meaning to them, however I feel that these songs have all been done to death. If you see any generic Rock covers band in a pub in the UK, you can guarantee you'll hear a few of these. Does the world really need yet another version of My Generation or Wild Thing? Hells no!

To be fair, Krokus nail these covers. Their performance is flawless and the production is really good. I think the tracks that turned out best are Rockin' In The Free World, The House Of The Rising Sun and the re-recording of their own song Back Seat Rock 'N Roll which sounds more like Bon Scott era AC/DC than even Airbourne do. I don't understand the album's intro, which is just the riff from Black Sabbath's N.I.B played for just over a minute. It seems a little pointless, and was a bit disappointing as I was expecting to hear the song in its entirety.

Big Rocks is what it is. I can't really fault it as a release. I just wish there had been a more interesting choice of songs on there. Some wild cards. Some kind of unpredictable cover that would unexpectedly turn out to be pure genius. Alas not. However, if you haven't heard these songs a million times and aren't sick to death of them, this Krokus album should be on your shopping list.

Monday, 20 February 2017


Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes - Modern Ruin

1. Bluebelle
2. Lullaby
3. Snake Eyes
4. Vampires
5. Wild Flowers
6. Acid Veins
7. God Is My Friend
8. Jackals
9. Thunder
10. Real Life
11. Modern Ruin
12. Neon Rust

I was psyched for this album, as I really liked their debut Blossom. I've seen Frank front Gallows a number of times, and his reputation as one of the craziest, unpredictable and engaging front-men in modern rock is well deserved. The last time was at The Sugarmill in Stoke-on-Trent and I remember the gig finishing early because Frank had to be taken to hospital mid-set with blood pissing down his face. Every show got people talking and gave the press plenty to write about.

I really enjoyed his next band Pure Love and the one album they released. It was a considerably more commercial and melodic band than Gallows, and Frank received a lot of unfair criticism for it. Fuck those people. It's a great album and worth a listen! Soon after the demise of Pure Love, Frank returned with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes and their debut album Blossom took a much more aggressive path and was clearly heavily inspired by Frank's Punk roots. That brings us to this new release.

Modern Ruin starts off with the minute long melancholy ballad Bluebelle with some quality crooning vocals to set the tone for this bleak and angry album. What I really like about Modern Ruin is that there are a lot of clean melodic vocals which ooze passion and give the songs way more depth than screaming alone can. The rhythm guitars are savage and there is an undeniable energy throughout, so Frank's singing never at any point detracts from the raw emotion exuded from the songs. It's multi-layered and shows that there are more creative sides to Frank than we've previously heard. There are plenty of great tracks on here, and no weak moments. My personal favourites are Vampires, Lullaby and Wild Flowers.

To my ears, this album draws from the best elements of Gallows and Pure Love, and mixes those sounds with classic Punk such as The Damned and The Stooges, adds a twist of Arctic Monkeys and gives it all a huge shot of adrenaline. I'm pleased that Frank has pushed the envelope musically and hasn't regurgitated former glories. Modern Ruin is a vibrant, passionate and  genuinely interesting record, reaffirming Frank as one of the UKs best contemporary artists.